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RadioPlayer Needs To Improve

By Art Grainger
Posted 14 April 2015, 6.45pm edt

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Unfortunately since TuneIn had its last update, the audio streaming is dipping every few seconds when I'm on the move on a train. This will apparently be sorted out by the next update, so I have to be patient.

Meanwhile, I've had to use RadioPlayer, which has been much hailed on this website and by some corners of the British radio industry. If only the reality lived up to the hype and it was as good as TuneIn.

So I've been trying to bear RadioPlayer for the past few days on my daily train commute. Using both the on-train wi-fi and 3G signal, I find RadioPlayer quite frustrating for long term listening.

Tonight, on my hour long journey back home, using the wi-fi signal, RadioPlayer lost the stream 19 times (I counted them). Last night, using 3G, the stream was lost 17 times. Granted, on most occasions when the signal was lost, it came back after just 2 or 3 seconds but it was still annoying to have happened so many times.

Whenever I use TuneIn, I have become experienced enough to use it so that I don't lose the stream at all - or at worst I lose it for a few moments on one occasion during my hour long commute, whilst in some larger not-spots I might lose a few seconds of the live stream and it suddenly skips to the next conversation being had by Radio 5.

TuneIn gives me the ability to rewind the stream (I set it back by two minutes) so that if I do lose the signal, I'm still hearing the stream whilst my smartphone reconnects with the wi-fi or 3G signal and the signal buffers in the background, usually starting again from where the signal was lost, giving me a near seamless stream of the news, conversation or song (as If I never lost the signal at all).

Unfortunately RadioPlayer does not seem to have this wee feature.

Don't get me wrong, both RadioPlayer and TuneIn are great when I'm sitting still and even in the great outdoors within sighting distance of a cell - but the former doesn't seem to cope as well with faster movements between cell masts, certainly not at 90 MPH on a local train service.

Also, the distinct lack of UK stations on RadioPlayer puts it at a disadvantage to TuneIn and I'm still surprised that quite a few ILR's are still not listed and most community, student and hospital stations aren't.

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Comments

PRO2 years, 2 months ago

I tried their Android app to listen to Absolute's decades stations in "high quality" and found similar issues to you Art with it buffering or disconnecting the stream.

However I had no problems listening to the 160kbps OGG Vorbis stream using Xiia Live using the same 3G HSPA+ signal.

I'll give UK RadioPlayer some credit though. Rinse FM on a Friday between 11-2pm continually buffers using the direct stream, however the RadioPlayer version keeps a solid connection. Only catch is as Rinse don't offer a low bitrate stream, you can't stream it to your phone using the app!

2 years, 2 months ago

I wholeheartedly agree - Radioplayer DOES need to improve, particularly in the area you highlight. Truth is, it's bloody difficult to deliver rock-solid live radio listening to a moving train, over the cellphone network.

I'd hazard a guess that you're listening to a BBC station. They recently changed their streaming to a format called HLS, which sends live audio in chunks, for the app to stitch together.

Apple invented it, and they advise stations to set up their streaming so that each chunk is between 10 and 30 seconds long. Sadly, the BBC has gone for chunks around 6 seconds long, and these just aren't long enough for an app to survive a 'bursty' cell connection. It simply runs out of stuff to play. This is a challenge for us all - including TuneIn.

I like your tactic of creating an artificially long 'buffer' using a delay feature. It's reminded me of a bonkers idea I had a while back, which I'll now revisit. Thank you.

Of course, the real solution is the one we're currently investing a lot of time in at Radioplayer - hybrid radio. I'll bet the station you were trying to listen to is actually broadcast on DAB and/or FM, and one day we hope our radio devices will be able to switch transparently between broadcast and streaming, to make sure your listening remains uninterrupted.

In the meantime, we'll keep trying to improve. Thanks for the feedback.

2 years, 2 months ago

RadioPlayer seems like a bit of a cartel to be honest.
In principle, a common app/plug-in that could be used by any radio station is a great idea. But not every radio station can use it: You have to have an OfCom licence, and you have to pay for the privilege.
That reeks of protectionism by the big players, who feel threatened by internet-only stations.
They'll be insisting on you signing up to Rajar next.

TuneIn on the other hand is free to the station and the listener, and has a much bigger existing user base. And if you're confident in the appeal and quality of your output, you won't be worried that you're sharing a platform with 100,000 other stations.

2 years, 2 months ago

Hi Michael, I usually listen to Radio 5 on most days. I occasionally listen to Radio 2. When I'm in the mood for neither, in the mornings it tends to be Original 106 and on the home trip it is whatever captures my mood, which has included Clyde 3, Chill, FIP (the French onion station) and even the Victoria Radio Network in Kirkcaldy, among a few others.

TuneIn, when I re-wind, copes especially well with the BBC stations and still does quite good with the others, although FIP tends to transport itself in time far more often and I can miss 20 or 30 seconds worth of audio as it skips forward to the moment it picked up the signal again.

Tim, I agree that it does seem odd that radio stations that are registered charities (hospital, community and occasionally student stations) are apparently asked to pay to be on this service, which by what Michael seems to admit to, is still a little inferior to TuneIn. So by not having those stations on puts TuneIn at a considerable advantage, even for me (see my choice of stations - 2 of the stations I have mentioned are not on RadioPlayer and a third wasn't on for quite some time).

2 years, 1 month ago

Well, the new update for TuneIn has made the glitching audio problem even worse.

So I have uninstalled it from my Smartphone. There is no point in having an app that is supposed to let me listen to radio stations (easily), when I can't hear them with a solid stream. Cutting out for a fraction of a second every few seconds is unbearable.

It's not a problem with my smartphone - others streaming apps and individual radio station apps work perfectly fine. It's not even a problem with versions of TuneIn that have been pushed out to the likes of Roku and other smart-TV devices that I have. My Blackberry has a 2 year old version of TuneIn, which I usually use to listen to whilst I'm at home. On my smartphone, TuneIn worked perfectly well until February.

What's even more surprising about TuneIn is that after I highlighted this problem to them, they gave what appears to be the standard response they give to other users who have complained, which is to join their Beta group so that they "can resolve your issue individually." That's very poor. Why should I? The problem is affecting hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of users.

They also need to resolve the problem very, very soon - as in a handful of days. Otherwise this once great app will become a distant memory for many users who simply stop using it and uninstall from their devices, which would be a fatal way to do business.

Meanwhile, my back-up app, which is RadioPlayer, needs to have a re-wind function that can allow me to scroll the audio back a few minutes, to allow for background buffering when I lose the mobile phone signal whilst I'm travelling on a train at 90 MPH. TuneIn excelled with this feature in a previous version that worked really well. It should also allow registered charity stations on for free - and let the listener decide of the programming quality is worthy.

2 years, 1 month ago

If you're on Android, I would recommend XiiaLive. (pro, free).

It buffers well (with audio notifications for when it's doing so or when it's empty / failed).
You can also rewind as it buffers the last x minutes (a duration which you can set).
There's also the ability to change the EQ amongst other things.
The directory is lacking at the moment, but for all the UK stations you could ask for, just use http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/android , choose a station stream and XiiaLive will play it immediately.

PRO2 years, 1 month ago

XiiaLive is also available for iOS, I notice: free, with a £2.99 in-app upgrade.

2 years, 1 month ago

Vinnie, you have just provided me with the solution to my troubles. Thank you sir.

OK, the user interface with XiiaLive is really ugly and horrible to use for ordinary (non-tech savvy) folk. Fortunately I am proficient enough to cope with it. Its use is made slightly better via RadioFeeds but the Android version of RadioFeeds still requires a bit of radio geekiness for the user to understand, as well as knowing the names of radio stations to look for.

However, RadioFeeds has the advantage that it lists almost all of the legal free-radiating UK and Ireland's stations, regardless of their quality of output and their ability to meet the beauty parade criteria that other players seem to have set. I say almost all stations because I noticed a couple of ommissions. Bridge FM in Dundee broadcasts on DAB, albeit part-time on the Access Channel - but I would have thought that it was worthy of inclusion. I also noticed that free-radiating hospital services are not on RadioFeeds.

XiiaLive (a very poor brand name) does allow me to extract the streaming URL's of other stations that I listen to and add them to Xiia's player.

Xiia also has a bar at the bottom that allows me to see how much the stream has buffered and whereabouts in the buffered stream I am listening. If very little buffer time remains, I can simply rewind by a few moments and allow the 3G/Wi-fi signal to reconnect and re-buffer.

As for TuneIn - just now it can take a hike. If the very high level of comments from other users shouting about their problems is anything to go by, it would seem that TuneIn has become an absolute bag in the past couple of months. Could the mighty be about to fall?

In this new digital age, I would imagine that if a service provider is having severe technical issues that do not get resolved very quickly, the public are now much less forgiving and much less patient than they might have been before and will more readily move on to something else. As each day of TuneIn's nightmare continues, I would imagine that thousands more are deserting them.

2 years, 1 month ago

Art said:
"RadioFeeds has the advantage that it lists almost all of the legal free-radiating UK and Ireland's stations."

What's missing? Other than RSLs and LPFM/AM stations, which I acknowledge aren't listed.

Art said:
"the Android version of RadioFeeds still requires a bit of radio geekiness for the user to understand"

Yes, it's designed for those who know exactly what they want, with the luxury of having the maximum choice of streaming options (both in station output variations, where available, and bitrates/codec). But it's also very fast to locate a stream once you've started memorising the three-letter shortcuts to your favourite stations.

James said:
"XiiaLive is also available for iOS"
I haven't used this version but I understand the behaviour is not quite identical as was certainly the case when I tried in an earlier version. For example, I don't think it's possible to launch (all) streams directly from Safari. For this reason, I haven't recommended it. But if someone's happy to prove me wrong.........

2 years, 1 month ago

Sorry, Art, you did say which stations were missing.

"Bridge FM in Dundee broadcasts on DAB, albeit part-time on the Access Channel - but I would have thought that it was worthy of inclusion."

It IS listed, but because of the stylisation, it's known as "BRIDGEfm". You probably typed in "Bridge FM". I think I'll need to include some kind of fuzzy search in the mobile pages.
You can also get straight to it with the search code: "BRD".

EDIT: Just tried "Bridge FM" and BRIDGEfm still came up in the results. I'm intrigued as to what search terms you actually used now.

2 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Vinnie. In the land of many Bridge's it seems as though my search wasn't discriminate enough for my android.

Is there a reason why you don't list free-radiating hospital stations? Student stations are listed.

2 years, 1 month ago

Too much work to maintain, basically.
The student ones are going to be removed. They'd remained on there for a while as I thought we were getting a close to an arrangement with the SRA. Unfortunately, that never materialised in the end.

1 year, 11 months ago

This article was about Radio Player. With that in mind, I will enquire here as to whether radio Player still has issues with hogging RAM, battery usage and excessive data transfer that I have read about in the past. These made me remove radio Player from my phone.

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